The Top 5 Reasons Why Broadway Grossed Almost $2 billion bucks.

Last week, I wrote about the record-breaking reported Broadway gross of $1.7b (and why I believed it was more like $2b).

And this week, I want to talk about why we’re smashing records like a 1950s preacher who thinks rock-n-roll is the devil.

Broadway has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last few years and, while there are a number of reasons we are where we are, here are my top five.

1. It’s a Family Thing

There are more family musicals on Broadway now than there were decades ago.  This past season we had all the Disneys (including the new Frozen) as well as Anastasia, School of Rock, Charlie, and more.  And when you’ve got a family musical, the average customer’s order is more than 2 tickets.  More tickets = more bodies = more bucks.  And despite the increased number of shows that favor the family, we haven’t seemed to reach an oversaturation point.

2. There is no Top Price anymore

A little over 10 years ago, we introduced the “Premium Ticket,” which was a higher priced ticket for the better seats in the house.  In the past few years, the price of tickets has become fluid, rising (and falling) due to demand, just like an airline ticket.

And one trend that I’ve noticed lately is that most shows aren’t just relying on their General Managers to handle the complex process of analyzing and tweaking prices daily.  Producers are now hiring analysts either inside their ad agencies or independent experts to handle this for them.  Why?  It’s easy to justify the extra expense with the amount of money that could be made with even the slightest tweak up on ticket prices or the slightest tweak down on ticket prices (that moves more volume).

3. He’s The Boss . . . and Events

Certainly one of the biggest gross bumpers in the last season was the surprise long runner, Bruce Springsteen.  While everyone expected him to gross in the millions. . . no one expected him to stay this long!

While some have grumbled that he’s occupying a prime theater when a new musical or a new play could be in his spot, you won’t hear me complaining.  A short-term loss of a theater for the long-term effects of getting new audiences and frankly, just being able to say, “Broadway is so cool, Bruce Springsteen played here,” is worth it.

But The Boss isn’t the only one who has helped spike our numbers over the last few years.  We’ve had a lot of short-term fillers that have popped into theaters in-between bookings and added to our bottom line.  I’m talking shows like The Illusionists and Rocktopia.  Ok, ok, so those shows may not be what we want the world to think of when they think Broadway, but if a theater is dark, something is better than nothing.  (A dark theater is one of the most depressing things there is.)

4. The Hamilton Effect

Hamilton got a @#$% ton of press.  And still does!  A reporter at a local news org told me that her editors instructed her to write about Hamilton every chance she got because the views on each article were off the charts
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Hamilton was a lightning rod to our industry.  People were talking about it all over the world.  And when shows hit juggernaut status and are featured on The Grammys and on the cover of Rolling Stone, etc., that doesn’t just sell more tickets to Hamilton… it sells more tickets to Broadway.  It’s the trickle-down effect, and all of us are benefiting.

So if you see Lin-Manuel, say thanks.

5. We’re creating great content

The most important reason we’re killing it these days is the most simple and also the best way to build any business . . . we’re creating great product. Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away . . . we haven’t put this many big-grossers on our boards since 1957-58, when West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and Music Man were all on the boards, or since Les Mis and Phantom opened a year apart.

Don’t let any fast-talking marketing guru sell you on billboards, direct mail, or remarketing as the secret to selling tickets. It is much simpler.  The best marketing in the world is creating a great product.

Yes, we’ve gotten a lot of attention over the past few years thanks to Hamilton, The Obamas attending Broadway shows, Glee, Smash, Live Telecasts, and more . . . but that attention wouldn’t convert to sales unless we were creating shows that people wanted to see.We’re rising to the challenge, and that’s something we should be proud of.

Want more of my analysis of our business?  I write five exclusive articles a month on marketing, our grosses, and more, solely for my Pros.  Click here for more.

GUEST BLOG: Should Bots Be On Broadway? by Monica Hammond

Imagine a world where everything is automated.

Actors move on stage with the click of a button. Their voices echo through the theatre like Alexa and Siri . . . hey, they can even do accents! Light cues are triggered automatically by blocking bots . . . the whole theatrical experience is run by a bunch of 0s and 1s!

No?

Well good. Because that’s not the kind of Broadway bot I’m talking about!

I’m talking about marketing bots.

Marketing bots are the hot topic today at all the major Marketing conferences across the country, and these bots take many forms. From Facebook messenger bots to pre-filled website chats, bots are automating the customer journey for many businesses.

Imagine you are on the ticketing page of a Broadway website and you’re confused as to where the best seats are located (a common question on our Once On This Island chat), then an automated pop-up asks, “any questions I can help you with regarding seat location?”

“Why, I thought you’d never ask!” you may reply!

After typing your question, a real person is alerted on the other end via a pop-up notification that you’ve started a conversation and now you’re speaking with a living and breathing person! After your questions are answered, you feel confident in your seat location and whip out your credit card!

This transaction was prompted all because of an automated chatbot. The customer’s questions are answered and the show gets to put some butts in seats. Seems like a win-win to me.

Bots can provide proactive customer service by prompting and answering frequently asked questions to help customers overcome objections and lead to a quicker sale. They also lessen the need for humans on the phone until one is truly needed, which can help reduce costs for businesses and streamline communication.

Sounds pretty efficient, right?

As an experiment, I visited the website of 18 Broadway shows to see if any were using a basic automated chat feature. I was surprised to find that 18 out of 18 Broadway show websites did NOT have a chat feature, at least that I could detect, and it made me wonder . . .

Why isn’t Broadway using bots?

Some patrons prefer to pick up the phone and ask the box office where they should sit, some want to send an email, and others prefer to chat their questions. So why not offer chat as another option?

If bots and automation are at the forefront of digital communication, then why hasn’t Broadway caught on? Should we reallocate customer service team members to accommodate a new mode of conversation? Are we stuck in the digital Stone Age? Are we too focused on the concept of “authentic conversations” in the digital space to try a bot? Does the use of bots automatically mean inauthentic?

The world of bots is advancing by leaps and bounds each day, and the potential for marketers seems truly endless. Bots are the new email, the new phone number, the newest mode of conversation, and Broadway should consider the implications of their use with our audiences, because not all bots are bad.

What do you think? Should bots be on Broadway?

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Monica Hammond is the Director of Marketing for Davenport Theatrical Enterprises. Broadway: Once On This Island (Circle in the Square) and Gettin’ The Band Back Together (Belasco Theatre, 2018), Spring Awakening (Brooks Atkinson Theatre). Off-Broadway: Daddy Long LegsShear MadnessThat Bachelorette Show, as well as the North American Tour of A Night With Janis Joplin. Monica also manages Ken Davenport’s members-only community for theatre professionals, The Producers Perspective PRO.

If you enjoyed this content, join Monica at her upcoming Crafting Your Marketing Plan workshop. Extremely limited availability remains!

Affiliate Marketing for Theater Tickets.

Back in the late 90s, when Amazon was $48/share and my broker told me not to buy it because it was too expensive (PS, it’s $1,608/share now, which means a $10k investment would be worth $335k), they unrolled an aggressive marketing strategy that turned their customers into ambassadors.

That system?

They paid people for recommending them.

It’s called Affiliate marketing, and it has become a thing for many online retailers.  It goes like this:

You register with a company to be an “affiliate.”

You tell your friends, followers, subscribers, etc. about products and services that said company sells by sending them a unique URL or code.

If your friends buy a product or service from that company, you get some cash.

You don’t get paid much, but it’s something and it requires little or no effort at all.

And in exchange for those few bucks, companies like Amazon get a marketing army of online ambassadors sending traffic to their site . . . and they only pay when they make a sale!

Amazon’s affiliate system was an early initiative that they incorporated in their attempt to gain massive market share . . . and fast.

Now, here’s the interesting thing . . . almost two decades later, Amazon dominates the market.

So now that they have so much traffic, you’d think they’d abandon the affiliate system.

And you’d be wrong.

And when a company is this successful, yet still rewards their customers for sending other customers their way, it’s worth taking notice.

This isn’t a new concept.  Referrals are one of the most important parts of the sales process.  You sell someone on something (a ticket, an investment, whatever) and then you ask them if they know someone else who might be interested in the same product.

So . . . my question . . . you guessed it . . .  is why don’t we have affiliate marketing on our ticketing sites for ALL of our customers that is as easy as Amazon’s?

Both Ticketmaster and Telecharge have affiliate programs  . . . but they are not for everyone.  It’s more for B2B relationships.

And I’m not sure I understand why it’s not more of an open-for-all program.  What Producer wouldn’t pay a few bucks from their ticket price to gain the potential online ambassadors of an affiliate system?

We pay MORE than a few bucks for advertisements to sell tickets, why wouldn’t we pay consumers for recommending us?

Affiliate marketing is actually a cheaper and more effective form of advertising than most of the media we’re buying.

That’s why Amazon still does it.

And why you and I should too.

In fact, you know what?  I was going to end the blog with that last sentence, but I just realized something.  While I may not be able to create an affiliate program through my official ticketing sites, I can create a workaround.

So if you like my shows, from Once on this Island to Gettin’ The Band Back Together and want to make some extra money from home, email me . . . I’ll hook you up.

And if you’re producing a show, drop me a note and I’ll tell you how to set up a program like this for yourself.

 

 

GUEST BLOG by Nathan Johnson: Elevating the Brand of Broadway

I didn’t grow up a Broadway fan. I wasn’t the kid that collected Playbills and hung them on my walls. I didn’t take holiday trips with my family to New York when I was young to take in a show. We typically found ourselves running away from the freezing Minnesota winters to warmer climates. Occasionally I would see a traveling Broadway tour (which I almost always enjoyed), but between family, friends, and extracurriculars, my life seemed pretty full. I was quite alright without adding “Broadway” to the mix.


So, in 2007 when I married the love of my life, actress Laura Osnes, and we moved to NY, that all changed.  Laura is a “Broadway Baby” through and through. She doesn’t like Broadway, she LOVES Broadway. Needless to say, my education started immediately.


Over the course of the next few years, I had some incredible experiences in the theatre. I assume if you’re reading Ken’s Davenport’s blog, I’m preaching to the choir. You probably already know that good theatre can challenge, inspire, develop empathy, and even cause us to just escape with a good laugh.  There’s just something about experiencing live theatre at that level that is impossible to get elsewhere.


While I felt at home in a Broadway house, many of my friends and acquaintances outside of the theatre community didn’t seem to care about taking the time to go to sit through a show. Their lives were full. From their perspective, Broadway seemed like something that was for the older generations, tourists, and for the super-committed thespian fan. Their perspective sounded a lot like me before meeting my wife. I couldn’t help but see that there was a major glitch in how Broadway was perceived by much of my demographic.


I am a photographer and business owner. After a brief stint of acting, and realizing it wasn’t for me, I began photographing a lot of actor headshots and portraits and eventually began shooting Broadway campaigns. I was fortunate enough to work with Ken on his incredible production of Spring Awakening…a production that made me ugly cry in my seat.


Five years ago I opened a photography studio in West Chelsea called Drift Studio (driftstudionyc.com), and have developed a great client list, including most of the major publications (Vogue, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, Nylon, Billboard, Hollywood Reporter, Esquire, to name a few). Each of these companies do a pretty bang-up job at creating the level of content that cuts through the noise to reach a younger adult audience to bring them the newest of Hollywood, fashion, and music goings on (ignore the fact that the print divisions are going the way of the dinosaur). Why wasn’t Broadway included in the mix? You might see the occasional feature on one of the theatre elite, but it was a rarity. Why wasn’t anyone creating the type of Broadway content using Broadway talent to reach my peers? Why was almost all of the content that I was seeing so fan-focused?


Over the course of the next few years, I was fortunate enough to connect with others in the industry who felt the same way and wanted to do something about it. So we began to team up to create the kind of content that we wanted to see. Through a series of companies and brand partnerships, we have worked to create hundreds of photo editorials, feature stories and even events to try and make a connection with a new audience. Currently, much of our original team is at TodayTix, of which I am a Creative Director of a new venture called The X (cultureliveshere.com).


It is my hope that we, along with other outlets, elevate the brand of Broadway in a way that is exciting, glamorous, relevant and sexy and engage a new demographic of theatre-goers who deserve to know the power of the live theatre!


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Nathan Johnson is a NYC based photographer and founder of Drift Studio.

GUEST BLOG by Sara Fitzpatrick: 5 ways to make sure you’re ACTUALLY connecting with your audience online

The Internet is the child of Al Gore and that’s why we capitalize it like a first and last name.

The Internet is the end.

The Internet is the beginning.

The Internet has made virtual space more valuable than physical space.

The Internet is___________.

All these statements about The Internet are equally true… including the blank statement. So if The Internet is and is not all of these things, how do you use it as an effective marketing tool? This has become an increasingly important question as the days of treating digital as an afterthought are gone. The Internet is constantly evolving, but here are some approaches I’ve discovered from my fifteen years of digital marketing to make sure I’m actually connecting with an audience online.

1. Exercise empathy

If you’ve ever secretly wanted to be an actor, here’s your opportunity to get method.

Start looking at things from the audience’s point of view. The days of big brands shaming people into buying a lifestyle are gone. Now, it’s about welcoming them into your brand world and engaging them in a dialogue. This is not to suggest people will ever stop buying things out of a place of deep shame, that will never get old for some of us! But thinking that people want to hear a monologue about a brand from a rigid entity is outdated and ineffective. Modern marketing engages your audience in a conversation where they feel welcomed into your brand world.

So, if your marketing strategy is based on a dialogue, you need to define your voice. But how do you do that?

2. Create and abide by your brand guide

Your show is meant for somebody and the better you can figure out who that person is, the more effectively you can reach them.

What does your show’s brand pyramid look like?
What are its key attributes?
Who are your competitors?
What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
What does the consumer look like for your show?
What are the visuals, tone and creative that will best convey your brand message to your most likely consumer?

When you’re able to clearly abide by that brand voice you can generate tailored, high-quality materials. The digital space may be a person’s first touch point for your brand, so pay attention to what you’re saying. The quality of your content online is more important NOW more than ever, which leads us to the next guideline–

3. Weight quality over quantity

Your brand voice in the conversation will come through in the content you create. Be thoughtful; it’s easy to understand why consumers are increasingly wary of anything online. Create quality content you stand behind. Once you’ve created this content, you need to be strategic about where it goes.

Advertising is not always content and content is not necessarily advertising. What’s impactful in print may equally fall flat on a smartphone. The time and effort spent creating content that tells us what your brand voice is will be wasted unless you’re also smart about where it’s being heard. Different advertising and social media platforms have taken on distinct personalities; personalities you need to consider for your messaging.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that even if someone isn’t “following” you, it doesn’t mean they’re not engaged. Consumers are using social media as a research tool for brands instead of blindly following them—which is another reason your brand voice needs to be consistent and true. A new user is as likely to see your Instagram post as a loyal fan. “Followers” don’t carry the same amount of weight as they used to because they don’t necessarily translate to popularity or customers and vice versa. And speaking of followers….

4. Beware of fake news

Bots and followers leave everyone with that uncanny valley feeling: looking at a face that appears human but isn’t actually a flesh-and-bone human being. It’s a vile and insidious feeling. You’re unable to trust that anyone is who…or even what they say they are. I feel horrible even talking about it, I need to go buy something.

Buying followers and utilizing bots is a big example of putting quantity or quality… or quantity over reality. We don’t buy bots and I would never recommend it to anyone. Not only because it’s an ethically grey area, but because it’s not actually helpful in gathering insights for your brand. It really has more to do with how the audience is reacting to your product. How is the audience growing? What are the elements of your marketing matrix that drive traction and interaction? What are the messages that spark the most engagement? Fake follower data isn’t going to help you with that.

And alongside bots, the last important trap to avoid in your path to becoming the Beyoncé of branding-

5. Just because your friends are jumping off the bridge…

Just because everyone is buying New York Times triple trucks in July, doesn’t mean you should too. ALWAYS consider your brand voice and be loyal to it. Like your savvy customers, you can see what the competition is doing as research, but that doesn’t mean you should blindly follow and do the same thing.

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Sara Fitzpatrick is the Founder and President of ARTHOUSE, a full-service media agency that partners with forward-thinking web advertisers in the strategy and design of innovative brand campaigns. Their services include branding, content creation, social management and media buying with a focus on how creative drives campaign success.

You can hear her podcast interview with Ken here.

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